Plans to “split” our 310 area code are back again.

Having failed to get the public to accept their plans to “split” the 310 area code into two area codes five or six years ago, the phone companies now are beating the drum for a 424 area code “overlay.”

The phone companies got so battered by the public in their earlier effort to “split” the 310 area code into two area codes that the phone companies now are promoting a plan to place an “overlay” over the entire 310 area code. The “overlay” would be area code 424.

Knowing how absolutely opposed the public is to a “split” of the 310 area codes, the phone company promoters say their area code “overlay” is nothing like an area code “split.”

The phone company spokespeople are getting absolutely hostile when anyone now even hints that their new proposal is a “split” of area codes.

The problem for the phone companies is that they have lost so much credibility with the public that no one really believes much of anything the phone company folks say on this topic.

Redondo Beach councilman Don Szerlip wasn’t even subtle when he labeled local phone companies as being “dishonest” on the area code issue.

The councilman has lots of company among those who pretty much agree with that assessment.

The problem for the phone companies dates to the late 1990s, when the phone companies tried to get a split of the 310 area code by claiming they were “running out of telephone numbers.”

But a quick look at the situation revealed that the phone companies were “hoarding” phone numbers, not running out of them.

Phone company credibility took a nose dive.

Now the phone companies are back, claiming again that they don’t have enough phone numbers to handle the new demand.

But as the state Public Utilities Commission investigates the situation and holds public hearings on the proposal, the credibility of the phone companies again is being called into question.

For example, the Daily Breeze reported this week that a full 25 percent of unused telephone numbers still remain available for future phone customers.

The public has again come out of the woodwork, outraged at the efforts of the phone companies and again disputing the phone company claims.

Palos Verdes Estates mayor Dwight Abbott even chided the state PUC for not protecting the public “from such abuse” by the phone companies.

The Daily Breeze says the PUC is still considering both area code proposals — one that would split the area code 310 at Imperial Highway south of Los Angeles International Airport and the second proposal, now favored by phone companies, to create a 424 area code overlay.

What steams us — and apparently much of the general public — is the “dishonest” dialogue still being bantered about by the phone companies.

Their public relations professionals gush how an overlay would not “harass” — their term, not ours — small businesses by forcing them to reprint stationery.

What the phone companies don’t want the public to know is that their overlay plan would inconvenience every phone customer in the present 310 area code by forcing all 310 customers to use 11 numbers — instead of the present seven — when telephoning even next door.

Moreover, everyone who has a telephone, a fax machine or some other device that is programmed for automatic dialing would have to reprogram their phone numbers in the 310 area code.

Meanwhile, up in Sacramento, an Assembly committee has approved a bill initiated by local Assemblyman Mike Gordon that would create rules for determining “the inventory of current (telephone) numbers.”

Apparently, these Assembly committee members also don’t trust the phone companies when it comes to saying how many unused phone numbers remain.

Stay tuned. A lot more is going to happen before this issue is settled.

CRANKY DEPARTURE —Leave it to the very accurately named Peter Crank to sound off on a variety of issues before leaving town.

Crank has been a regular contributor to our letters columns, always managing to find something to complain about. We admit he has lots of opportunities.

Now Crank is leaving the Marina after nine years and has sent us another letter as he leaves town.

We will miss him. Every town needs a crank or two to keep us awake.

In the letter we publish this week, Crank suggests that he is leaving all the “nonsense” of the Marina behind and moving to Mexico, where he seems to think he will find residential utopia.

However, as a property “owner” in Mexico since 1988 and as the brother of a full-time resident of Mexico, we can assure the cranky Mr. Crank that if he thinks he is heading into residential bliss in Mexico without any of the described “nonsense” he wrote about this week, he is in for a big surprise.

All we can say is buena suerte.

We look forward to the cranky letter he will surely be writing after experiencing a few years of residency south of the border.

We love Mexico, but it requires a lot more patience than the cranky Mr. Crank seems to possess — at least at this time.

Living in Mexico has many benefits, not the least of which is that it forces one to “mellow out” and take each day at a time.

Not even cranky letters speed up the pace of life south of the border.

VIET TRAN UPDATE — Viet Tran, the former local deputy to Los Angeles mayor James Hahn, called from Riverside County to tell us that the Riverside City Council has officially approved Tran’s nomination to the City of Riverside Airport Commission.

Viet says he got several calls from friends in our local area who had seen our item about his nomination to the airport commission.

Tran is now with Edison, which has its local office out there in the Inland Empire in some place called Romoland.

No comments, please. Tran got enough of them when he passed out his new business cards at the recent celebration for former Westchester honorary mayor Lance Lipscomb.

NAME CONFUSION — From the “What are you folks calling yourselves these days?” file:

The new owners of the former Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital are having lots of fun trying to figure out the new name for the Lincoln Boulevard hospital and the former Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood.

For the moment, the former Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital is — everybody take a deep, deep breath now — “Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center Marina Campus.”

Try getting that on a business card.

Or even a sign.

Which may explain why the new hospital owners haven’t changed the old Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital signs yet.

They probably haven’t been able to find a sign board large number for their new moniker.

POLITICAL BEDFELLOWS — Isn’t local politics fascinating?

This week we learn that one of the most conservative residents and business leaders in the Playa del Rey and Westchester area — Howard Drollinger — is supporting liberal Antonio Villaraigosa for Los Angeles mayor.

Drollinger isn’t just supporting Villaraigosa, Drollinger is hosting a fund-raising breakfast for Villaraigosa.

Also on board as fellow hosts of the Villaraigosa event are leaders of ARSAC (the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion), Val Velasco and Denny Schneider.

Drollinger has been one of the leading opponents to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) master plan Alternative D proposal by Villaraigosa’s opponent, Mayor James Hahn.

What amazes us is that anybody thinks that there will be one iota of difference to development of the LAX master plan whether Hahn or Villaraigosa is elected mayor.

Villaraigosa went on record early as opposing LAX Alternative D.

The problem is that Villa-raigosa is also backing — some of us would say “pandering to” — union leaders who want the LAX Alternative D.

We don’t for a moment believe that Villaraigosa would do anything but rush through Alternative D and the rest of the LAX master plan, should he get elected mayor.

The mayor’s race is finally beginning to interest the public.

We suspect early Hahn-haters are taking another look at the incumbent mayor and that Hahn is running closer to Villaraigosa than many would believe.

And we certainly don’t believe that Hahn is 18 points behind, as the little downtown daily claims from an earlier poll.

One of the strongest benefits for Hahn is the growing realization by many voters that “four more years of Hahn is a better choice than eight years of Villa-raigosa.”

Perhaps folks are just too optimistic that if Hahn is re-elected he’ll go back to sleep during the next four years and snooze through a second term as he did during his first term.

Frankly, that concept may be taking on a life of its own and is beginning to impress us — especially as Villaraigosa gets more and more arrogant with each passing day.

Readers know we have had over the past years less than an enthusiastic embrace of our local councilwoman, Cindy Miscikowski, but we were thoroughly outraged when Villaraigosa responded to Miscikowski’s correct comments about LAX at a recent Los Angeles City Council meeting.

Villaraigosa’s response that he didn’t need to be lectured to by Miscikowski was not only unnecessary, it was rude and childish.